A Halal Slaughterhouse Provides Nourishment for a Far-Flung Culture


The slaughterhouse is a fortress in the rusty industrial landscape of east Newark. Its windowless brick exterior reveals nothing of the scene inside. Only the words Mecca Halal Meat, printed on a truck outside, hint at the world behind the steel doors.

Another clue comes with the call to prayer. It slips out through a vent, blending with the drone of the New Jersey Turnpike. Inside, the voice moves from room to room, where chickens, bulls and goats arrive daily to meet their death. Blasted from loudspeakers, the sound hovers over the head butcher, Jaci DaSilva, a Brazilian immigrant who converted to Islam a decade ago.

The call reaches into another room where Saleh, a 52-year-old Nigerian, deftly slits the throat of a spotted guinea hen while mouthing the words that make the bird halal, or lawful in Islam: ''Bismillah, Allahu akbar.'' In the name of God, God is great. Standing sentry near the entrance is Omar Mady, one of two Egyptian bosses. And driving away with a van full of skinned goats is a sandy-haired Albanian, Muhamed Beqiri, who feeds the thriving Muslim market of Paterson , N.J. American Halal Meat, on Raymond Boulevard , is a small but telling monument to the growing presence of Muslims in the United States , now estimated to number more than seven million.

The animals killed here each day -- thousands a week in one of the region's biggest operations -- are shipped to butchers and restaurants as far away as Philadelphia and Albany , feeding people who have long lived on America 's cultural margins. Yet the slaughterhouse is as deeply American as it is Muslim. It is a place where spirituality mixes with commerce, and where business relationships are conducted with an American efficiency but rise and fall on a sense of brotherhood…

 


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